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Where Do They Go? - - - So what do those customers do when you're to busy to get to their car?


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Where do they go?


I've often wondered where all these "always in a hurry" people go when I'm too busy at the repair shop to get to their car the minute they show up at my door. At least once a day if not twice, I'll have a call or someone will stop by wanting me to drop everything and take care of their car the very second they show up at the service counter. Just the other day it was a Honda Odyssey.




"I need my SRS light turned off," he says in a very diplomatic voice.




"It will be about 30 minutes until I can get to you," I told him.




"I just need it turned off. I don't need it diagnosed. I'm on a tight schedule today."




"Everyone is busy right at the moment but it won't be very long until I can get to you sir."




He couldn't wait, instead he headed back out the same door he came in. "I'll be back tomorrow," he said as he pushed the lobby door open.




Tomorrow never comes... I suppose somewhere in the infinite number of "tomorrows" people like this guy are lined up to get their cars fixed. Oh, never mind that, sorry…, these kinds of folks don't want to wait, my bad.




I find it peculiar that someone would take the time to drive across town and expect some sort of service the second they showed up. What do they think this is an NASCAR pit stop? It's not like they are the only person with a broken car on the planet. I'm not saying it's not possible to take on a new project at a moment's notice but there are those occasions when there just isn't enough time or man power to accommodate everyone every time.




Let's take a look at it from a different perspective, say you're going out to dinner and when you reach your destination the maître d' tells you, "It's going to be about a 30 minute wait for a table.". Do you say, "I'm not waiting I've got a schedule to keep. I want a table now!" or do you wait? I would think waiting would be appropriate. You're at the restaurant so… wait, just like everyone else. Maybe I need to invest in some of those little pagers that vibrate and have those blinking lights on them. That way when someone wants "NOW" service I could take their name down, hand them a pager, and then I tell them, "It will be about 30 minutes for a service bay sir."




I guess I'm just not fast enough for some of them. Could it be their time crunch is too critical to wait? Was it my attitude or my laid back greeting "How ya doin', can I help ya with somethin'?" Could it be their general pace of life moves so fast that a mere 30 minutes would disrupt the rest of their natural life? Can't figure it out myself.




Maybe I came off a little rude, I know I've been to a few restaurants that I would put in the "rude" category and quite frankly the size of the tip would indicate that. Then I'm reminded of an episode of Seinfeld from several years ago about the so called "Soup Nazi". The guy behind the counter had such a horrible disposition that everyone was scared to say anything to him, but his soup was so good that people would tolerate his abusive personality just to sample his wares. I'm not that bad (Well, on occasions I probably am.) but I do take my job pretty serious. Serious enough that I want to make sure that I'm doing the best job for my customers, and doing something quickly usually means mistakes will happen, and often do.




It never fails if somebody wants something done in a hurry there's more to the story than just turning off a service light. This old quote fits these situations: "If the explanation of the problem is short, the problem is probably long and involved." - but- "If the explanation is long, the problem is probably small and quick to repair."




Case in point: A customer who was in too much of a hurry to leave his 94 Grand Am for me wanted to know what a couple of the "usual" problems were on them. I gave him a couple of the typical problems I've seen over the years on those 3.1 engine electronics. He hurriedly jotted them down and then shot out the front door and headed home to try them out. Several weeks later a tow truck showed up with his car on the hook. The entire interior was completely taken apart with the dash panels hanging by their wires. Looking under the hood I could see all kinds of new parts, coil, cam sensor, TPS, spark plugs, wires, etc.... But it still wouldn't start. By now he had given up on it and decided it was time to "wait" and see what I found out.




His novel of what he had done got rather lengthy. I had a pretty good hunch he's over looked something rather simple in his quest to diagnose this car. I turned the key on... hmmm, no service light, no gauge activity either, interesting... (Doesn't look like that new ECM lying on the passenger floor boards did him a lot of good either.) I'll check some fuses first. Wasn't hard to find the fuse box, it's on the end of the dash with the panels in the back seat. I checked the gauge fuse first... dead. No voltage. With all the other panels dangling around my feet the ignition switch wires were easy to find. Well what do ya know... a bad ignition switch.




If this guy would have waited for me to check it out a few weeks ago I could have diagnosed it then and saved him from buying all those components and tearing his car apart, but I guess that's what you get for being in a hurry. Just imagine how much leisure time this guy turned into a futile effort of car repair. I'd say he wasted a lot of his own time on this one.


As with most repair shops there are those days that it does get slow but even then there's still going to be some "wait-time" involved with any repair. It's not like a tech jumps in the car, pulls it in the service bay, opens the hood, tweaks a screw or two and you're down the road again. Things take time, It doesn't matter how much you'd like to hurry things up even an oil change takes time... you still gotta wait for the oil to drain before you can put the new oil in.




So where do they go? They must be still out there driving around trying to find somebody that can do it now for them. Maybe they are waiting for that special day to show up that they can get right in the shop without any delay. I still think the restaurant beeper thing would be a hilarious idea; I'm just not convinced the "hurry-uppers" would get the joke though. Maybe I could start a new policy at the shop that might get them to at least bring their cars in. I'll make up whole new calendar with my own days of the week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Nowday. So anything you want done NOW... here's the day to do it on.


Nah, what's the rush... just wait for tomorrow.


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I told a guy the other day that came by about 5 minutes before I was about to go home. "You'll need to bring it back tomorrow" I told him. My bad... I automatically put him on the list of tomorrow cars. Never seen him again. Seriously though... you show up 5 minutes before the resturaunt closes I'll bet you're not going to get served either.

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another short story... long problem... same old. same old.


Thanx for the comments Joe.

Ur the best!


Great article! And so true!


Just the other day a customer came in and said, "I have no time, I need my crank sensor replaced, I know that's the problem and you need to do it now". I calmly told him that we have a room full of peolple waiting already (I motioned my head to the people behind him seated in my waiting area). He turned around to look at the other customers and turned back to me and said, "this won't take you long, I would do it mysef but I hurt my back recently". At that point he pulled the sensor out of his pocket. Now, a little disturbed, I said, "when were you going to tell me you had the part"? He was silent fo a few seconds and replied, "Is it a yes or no". I said "no", and he walked out.


So ,this guy is also out there somewhere in the ether searching and searching and searching....

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When I was much younger and impatient I would go to a mechanical shop and when they said they could not get it today which was when I needed to get it done for various reasons, I would end up buying the part and doing it myself. They were simple jobs like changing out a reverse backup light switch on a manual transmission or a thermostat. I really wanted to pay to have someone do it, but the hassle of having to go back another day was not worth it to me and I had the ability to do it myself That's the important thing. Knowing your limitations!



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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Auto shop owners are always looking for ways to improve production levels. They focus their attention on their technicians and require certain expectations of performance in billable labor hours. While technicians must know what is expected of them, they have a limited amount of control over production levels. When all factors are considered, the only thing a well-trained technician has control over is his or her actual efficiency.
      As a review, technician efficiency is the amount of labor time it takes a technician to complete a job compared to the labor time being billed to the customer. Productivity is the time the technician is billing labor hours compared to the time the technician is physically at the shop. The reality is that a technician can be very efficient, but not productive if the technician has a lot of downtime waiting for parts, waiting too long between jobs, or poor workflow systems.
      But let’s go deeper into what affects production in the typical auto repair shop. As a business coach, one of the biggest reasons for low shop production is not charging the correct labor time. Labor for extensive jobs is often not being billed accurately. Rust, seized bolts, and wrong published labor times are just a few reasons for lost labor dollars.
      Another common problem is not understanding how to bill for jobs that require extensive diagnostic testing, and complicated procedures to arrive at the root cause for an onboard computer problem, electrical issue, or drivability issue. These jobs usually take time to analyze, using sophisticated tools, and by the shop’s top technician. Typically, these jobs are billed at a standard menu labor charge, instead of at a higher labor rate. This results in less billed labor hours than the actual labor time spent. The amount of lost labor hours here can cripple a shop’s overall profit.
      Many shop owners do a great job at calculating their labor rate but may not understand what their true effective labor is, which is their labor sales divided by the total labor hours sold. In many cases, I have seen a shop that has a shop labor rate of over $150.00 per hour, but the actual effective labor rate is around $100. Not good.
      Lastly, technician production can suffer when the service advisors are too busy or not motivated to build relationships with customers, which results in a low sales closing ratio. And let’s not forget that to be productive, a shop needs to have the right systems, the right tools and equipment, an extensive information system, and of course, great leadership.
      The bottom line is this; many factors need to be considered when looking to increase production levels. While it does start with the technician, it doesn’t end there. Consider all the factors above when looking for ways to improve your shop’s labor production.
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